Agreement didn’t include requirement on licence type
An employee of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) who only had a learner’s permit wasn’t excluded from the car allowance under her collective agreement, despite CLC’s claim she wasn’t eligible.
Bilan Arte was hired by CLC on Nov. 20, 2017 to be the national representative for women’s and human rights, based in Ottawa.
Arte completed a form on automobile information, providing details on her personal vehicle and driver’s licence number. She also provided her partner’s name and driver’s licence number as another driver in the same household.
However, there was no space on the form for the type of licence she had (at the time, Arte had a G1 class driver’s licence, commonly known as a learner’s permit). This meant she couldn’t drive without someone with a higher class of licence in the vehicle with her, she couldn’t drive at night or on highways, and she couldn’t consume any alcohol before driving.
Under its collective agreement, CLC provided a car allowance for specific positions to compensate employees “for ground travel they may be required to do on behalf of the CLC during the regular workday as well as evenings and weekends.”
In June 2018, CLC learned that Arte only had a G1 licence. Soon after, CLC informed Arte that she should not have been eligible for the car allowance because of her driver’s licence classification.
In June 2018, CLC learned that Arte only had a G1 licence. Soon after, CLC informed Arte that she should not have been eligible for the car allowance because of her driver’s licence classification. It said she ought to have made alternative arrangements for travel like others who have either a G1 licence or no licence at all and can’t drive themselves.
Arte was told to pay back what she had received, which was seven monthly payments of $625, a partial payment for her first month, $120 for a licence plate sticker renewal, and $1,593 in insurance premiums for a total of $6,612. CLC said it would forgive the gas and oil charges Arte had claimed.
CLC gave Arte two choices for repayment: a direct payment or deferral of the car allowance once it was reinstated when she attained her G2 licence. Arte declined both plans and CLC discontinued the car allowance, leading to a grievance by Arte’s union, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), Local 3111. Arte attained her G2 driver’s licence one month later.
Arbitrator Kim Bernhardt said that the language in the collective agreement referring to the car allowance was “clear and unambiguous” on the requirements — the car’s engine specs, gasoline, age, insurance premium, and that the car be made by unionized workers. Arte met all of these criteria. There was no reference to any licence requirement, said Bernhardt.
The arbitrator upheld the grievance and granted Arte the car allowance for the entire period of her employment. CLC was ordered to reimburse Arte for any withheld car allowance payments after she attained her G2 licence.
While CLC argued that Arte wasn’t forthcoming in disclosing the fact that she had a G1 licence, the arbitrator found it wasn’t relevant since there was no requirement for employees to specify the type of licence they had. Arte fully completed the information form that had no reference to licence classification, and the car allowance didn’t hinge on it.
The arbitrator also found that Arte’s G1 licence didn’t prevent her from fulfilling her job duties including driving for work-related purposes: She was always able to make arrangements to have someone accompany her, as required by her licence.
Reference: Canadian Labour Congress and International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, Local Lodge 3111. Kim Bernhardt — arbitrator. Charles Hofley for the employer. Dina Mashayekhi for the employee. Sept. 24, 2019.